Throughout history, the goalkeeper has been stuck in no man’s land, both figuratively and literally. Relegated to the backline with only a handful of moments to make their mark in a game, a good goalie is a tremendous asset to a team. However, oddly so, they have never been highly regarded.
Technological improvements and a new style of play are bringing goalies to the frontline though, and they are being rewarded with record salaries and transfer fees.
History Hasn’t Been Kind
If you take a moment to walk back in time, you’ll see that history hasn’t been overly kind to goalies. For whatever reason, this position has never really been given that much credit for all that it does for a team.
Until last year, only three of the top 200 transfer fees in Europe belonged to goalies. You have to go all the way back to the 2001 transfer of Gianluigi Buffon to Juventus for ^61 million to see the most recent keeper to make the list.
It doesn’t take long to see how valuable a goalkeeper is to a soccer team. And yet, over history, they don’t receive the monetary or public value that they semiplaning deserve.
Recent Goalie Proliferation
Over the past 18 months, goalies have experienced in renaissance in popularity and valuation. In fairness, its hard to consider it a rebirth or revitalization, because that would imply that they were in vogue at some point in the past.
Perhaps its better to just assume that this might be the first time in history that goalkeepers have been seen in this light. Teams are spending record amounts of money to obtain the top options, ranging from Liverpool’s $66 million on Allison Becker to Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga for a record $71 million.
Technology improvements over the past decade have made it possible for keepers to thrive. Nowadays, the best goalkeeper gloves are slim and trim, shedding the bulky look and feel of past designs. The increased flexibility allows a goalie to better showcase their best asset: their hands.
The Modern Keeper
Record transfer fees and a newfound popularity aren’t by accident. The modern soccer keeper is expected to do a lot more than in the past, and this might account for their rise in popularity in recent years.
Throughout history, goalies had one job to do – block shots. Beyond that, they were hardly even required to have soccer skills. When taking goal kicks, it was perfectly acceptable to just boot the ball as far as you can.
Likewise, if the occasional back pass from defender happened, all were happy if the goalie just cleared his lines.
Nowadays, though, new tactics have necessitated that the goalkeeper is an active and contributing part of the team. “Playing out of the back” has become a popular style of play, which puts the goalie at the center of the modern game’s strategy.
Today’s goalkeepers must be good with their feet, able to distribute the ball accurately across the pitch. Whether a side pass to a defender, a clearing of the lines, or a deep through ball to a striker, a keeper must have pinpoint accuracy with all of their kicks.
The modern goalkeeper is experiencing popularity and transfer fees unlike ever before. However, their role in the game is higher than in the past as well. Its good to see goalies rewarded as their obligations increase, although you could argue that this has been warranted for a long time now.